Deborah E. Lipstadt, described by Mount Royal Liberal MP Anthony Housefather as the foremost expert on antisemitism in the world, made a private visit to Côte Saint-Luc City Hall on December 7. On March 30, 2022, she was confirmed by the United States Senate as the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism, with the rank of Ambassador.
It was Housefather who arranged this extraordinary opportunity. He joined the meeting via Zoom, with many Parliamentary votes pending in Ottawa. Also in attendance were Mayor Mitchell Brownstein, some members of city council, Hampstead Mayor Jeremy Levi, Beth Zion Congregation President Charles Benedek, Montreal West Councillor Lauren Small-Pennefather, EMSB Commissioner Jamie Fabian, representatives for Housefather and D’Arcy McGee Liberal MNA Elisabeth Prass, Montreal filmmaker Beverly Shaffer (who confided she was Lipstadt's former college roommate) and several officials from the United States Embassy and Consulate. Bravo to our Director of Public Affairs and Communications Darryl Levine for the role he played in coordinating the gathering.
Housefather said he is calling upon the Canadian Heritage Committee to create a Task Force on Antisemitism at university campuses. He wants to see university presidents called to Parliament Hill and grilled.
Mayor Brownstein gave a preview of our city’s impending action plan against antisemitism. “It takes a lot of people at all levels of government to make this happen,” he says. “And it can’t just be the Jewish community.”
Lipstadt told the group that she had lunch at what she called a “Jewish deli in Montreal” that for years has placed a Chanukah menorah in its window. They did not do so this year, she confided, afraid of what the response might be.
“You are aware,” she said, “that we are seeing a tsunami of antisemitism. University leaders are at a loss. They don’t know what to do. For too many years university campuses did not take antisemitism seriously.”
Since the October 7 Hamas terrorist attack in Israel and the ensuing war, Lipstadt said she has travelled the globe. “In every cases governments are taking this seriously,” she said. “It does not mean they are doing the right thing."
Lipstadt is a decorated scholar of antisemitism through history. She famously prevailed against Holocaust denier David Irving in a years-long trial in British courts. But even she said she is taken aback by the vitriol that has spiked after the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, which the Israeli government has called the biggest single-day killing of Jews since the Holocaust. “I find myself gobsmacked, flabbergasted,” she told the Washington Post recently. “ And I don’t flabbergast easily. You can’t be a scholar of the Holocaust and be surprised by things. And yet even I have a hard time. I don’t want to say uncomprehending, because I can comprehend, but I have a hard time absorbing all that’s going on.”
Lipstadt says she wishes to use the power of her office to draw attention to the issue and to push other governments to stay vigilant about protecting their Jewish populations. “We take this seriously,” she remarked. “Jews may not seem to present as other victims of religious ethnic, racial bigotry present, but it is to be taken seriously. So I think that that’s one of the messages that I transmit, that the United States government, this administration and previous administrations, both sides of the aisle of Congress, rarely do we get to use the word bipartisan concern, you know, but certainly on this issue, there is bipartisan concern.”